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Student Christian Veatch (bottom) pauses after leaving flowers and a teddy bear outside the high school in Danvers, Mass., Oct. 23, 2013. Police found the body of Colleen Ritzer, a math teacher at the school, in woods near the facility. (Brian Snyder/ Reuters)

Danvers homicide: 14-year-old charged in second US teacher killing this week (+video)

By Contributor / 10.23.13

A 14-year-old high school student has been charged in the death of a math teacher in a suburb of Boston – the second killing of a teacher in the United States this week.

Philip Chism was arraigned in adult court on Wednesday morning for the murder of Colleen Ritzer, whose body was found in the woods near Danvers High School.

Police began an investigation into the disappearances of Philip and Ms. Ritzer after they were reported missing on Tuesday evening.

Blood was discovered in a second-floor bathroom at the school late Tuesday night before her body was found behind the facility, according to the Associated Press.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, Philip was spotted walking along a road in Topsfield, Mass., a town about five miles away from Danvers.

In court documents, law enforcement officers said they arrested Philip based on statements made by the suspect and corroborating evidence at multiple scenes. They also recovered video surveillance.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said there is no reason to believe anyone else was involved and there is no threat to public safety.

“It is apparent that she is a homicide victim,” Mr. Blodgett said at a news conference. “This is a terrible tragedy for the family of Colleen Ritzer and the entire Danvers family.”

Ritzer, who was in her 20s, was a native of Andover, Mass., and an alumna of Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., where she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in math, a minor in psychology, and a secondary-education concentration. 

"She was the nicest teacher anyone could ever have. She always had a warm smile on her face," said Chris Weimert, 17, who took Ritzer’s geometry class last year.

Ritzer had a Twitter account that she updated with homework assignments for her class. In her biography, she wrote: “Math teacher often too excited about the topics I’m teaching.”

Her relatives said she had a passion for teaching and mentored each one of her students, the AP reported.

Mary Duffy, who has lived next door to the Ritzers in Andover since the family moved there more than two decades ago, said she had known Colleen Ritzer from the time she was a baby. Ritzer’s only ambition in life was to be a teacher, Ms. Duffy said.

“She was a very respected, loved teacher,” Blodgett said.

Ritzer’s former student, Chris, said he knew the suspect, Philip, from seeing him around school. Philip “seemed like a good kid,” Chris said. “It really threw the whole town of Danvers a curveball.”

Kyle Cahill, a junior at Danvers High School, said he knew Philip from the soccer team. The 14-year-old moved to Danvers from Tennessee before the school year started, and he was a top goal-scorer on the school’s junior varsity team, Kyle said.

“He wasn’t violent at all. He was really the opposite of aggressive,” Kyle said.

He said there was a soccer team dinner Tuesday night that Philip skipped, and team members had wondered where he was.

Philip’s name was not initially published because he is a minor. The defense attorney argued for the proceedings to be closed and her client’s name to stay hidden because of his age, but the judge denied the request.

Philip is being held without bail and is due back in court on Nov. 22.

Another teacher was shot in an unrelated incident at a Nevada middle school on Monday. Michael Landsberry was trying to talk down a 12-year-old student, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, when the student pulled the trigger, killing the teacher.

Both incidents occur nearly a year after a gunman opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 students and six adults. The Dec. 14 shooting sparked a nationwide gun-control debate.

All public schools in Danvers were closed on Wednesday, and students planned a candlelight vigil for Wednesday evening.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Boston Marathon suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev smiles after winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell, Mass. on Feb. 17, 2010. Mr. Tsarnaev, who was killed during a police chase several days after the April 2013 bombings, is suspected in a triple homicide outside Boston in 2011, court documents show. (Julia Malakie/ AP Photo/ The Lowell Sun/ File )

Marathon bombing: Elder Tsarnaev a suspect in triple slaying, documents show (+video)

By Contributor / 10.23.13

Court documents filed this week in the case against alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev provide the first official confirmation that authorities consider his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed while fleeing law enforcement officials days after the deadly April bombing, a suspect in a triple homicide outside Boston on Sept. 11, 2011.

According to the documents, Ibragim Todashev, an acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was fatally shot at his Orlando home in May while being questioned by an FBI agent and two Massachusetts state troopers, said Tamerlan took part in the 2011 killings in Waltham, a Boston suburb. Authorities said Mr. Todashev became violent during questioning.

Todashev was a mixed martial arts fighter who had become acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev through the sport.

The three men killed in the Waltham slayings – Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken – were found in an apartment with their necks slit and their bodies covered with marijuana. One of the three men, Mr. Mess, was a boxer, and Tsarnaev’s friend, according to the New York Times.  

Monday’s court filing was an attempt by the prosecution to block Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team from getting certain information from authorities, including investigative documents on the Waltham murders, according to the Associated Press.

"Any benefit to [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev of knowing more about the precise 'nature and extent' of his brother's involvement does not outweigh the potential harm of exposing details of an ongoing investigation into an extremely serious crime, especially at this stage of the proceeding," prosecutors wrote in the filing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers have been seeking to force the government to share investigative materials pertaining to the 2011 Waltham murders with the defense. Mr. Tsarnaev’s lawyers say the elder Tsarnaev’s role in the murders might be a mitigating factor in the case against Dzhokhar, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors countered this, saying the disclosure of the materials could jeopardize the ongoing investigation of the triple homicide. Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s criminal history will be relevant, if at all, only at a possible future sentencing hearing, the prosecution said, according to AP reports.

The Tsarnaev brothers are suspected of planning and carrying out the twin bombings near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

Three days after the bombings, the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly killed Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier.

The pair then went on to engage in a gun battle with police in Watertown, Mass., which resulted in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death, and Dzhokhar’s escape.  

Police captured the younger Tsarnaev brother after a daylong manhunt, during which most of Boston was on lockdown.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction – two homemade pressure cooker bombs – and 16 other charges. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment on July 10. 

US Attorney General Eric Holder is set to rule in January if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face the death penalty, if found guilty.  

The Tsarnaevs were ethnic Chechens. Authorities found Dzhokhar, seriously wounded, in a boat into which he scrawled a note: "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all," according to a report by the AP.  Authorities say he also wrote several phrases accusing the US government of "killing our innocent civilians." 

Media reports have said the younger Tsarnaev came under the influence of his elder brother, who described himself as "very religious" and felt ill at ease in the United States. 

"I don't have a single American friend," Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly told photographer Johannes Hirn, who was taking his picture during his boxing training. "I don't understand them." 

A unidentified woman holds her son after picking him up at Sparks High School, where some students were taken after a shooting that left two dead at Sparks Middle School on Monday. (Andy Barro/Reno Gazette Journal/AP)

Nevada school shooting: slain math teacher hailed as 'true hero' (+video)

By Contributor / 10.22.13

On Monday morning at a Nevada middle school the usual sound of a school bell was supposed to usher students back to class after a weeklong fall break. But the bell was preceded by the noise of gunshots

At 7:15 a.m., a student opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun at Sparks Middle School, injuring two 12-year-old classmates, and killing one teacher, according to media reports. The 8th-grade math teacher and former Marine, Michael Landsberry, was trying to talk down the shooter as 20 to 30 students looked on, before he was fatally shot. 

Authorities have not yet provided a motive for the lone shooter, or where the shooter got the gun, the Associated Press reported.

"It's too early to say whether he was targeting specific people or just going on an indiscriminate shooting spree," Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson told CNN.

Jose Cazares, a student at Sparks Middle School, said he saw the armed student shoot two classmates before the shooter turned, and aimed the gun at Jose’s chest. Mr. Landsberry then stepped between Jose and the shooter, Jose told NBC’s "Today" show on Tuesday, according to a report from the Associated Press.

"He was telling him to stop and put the gun down. Then the kid, he yelled out 'No!' Like, he was yelling at him, and he shot him," Jose said. "He was calm, he was holding out his hand like, 'Put the gun in my hand.' " And then the shooter pulled the trigger.

Jose and his friends ran to hide from the gunman. The shooter heard one of Jose’s friends crying and threatened to shoot them, if they told anyone. The shooter then fired several bullets out the window, before apparently running out of bullets, Jose said. The boys lied to the shooter, telling him they didn't see anything, and then the shooter ran off.

Deputy Chief Robinson said 150 to 200 personnel secured the school and the surrounding area after the shooting was reported.

Law enforcement officials searched the area with bomb dogs, Robinson said. Agents from the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security were assisting in the investigation.

“I just want to reiterate again that the city itself is very safe and this I just an isolated incident. But it’s very, very tragic,” said Sparks Mayor Geno Martini during a late-morning news conference on Monday.

The two injured students, both 12-year-old boys, were taken to the nearby Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nev. One was shot in the shoulder, the other in the abdomen, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

As the city recovers from the shock of the shooting, Landsberry has been praised for his role in Monday’s events.

“In my estimation, he is a hero.... We do know he was trying to intervene,” Robinson told the Gazette Journal on Monday.

Jose's mother expressed gratitude for Landsberry, who she said had never taught her son.

"He sacrificed his life to take our kids into safety," Marisela Cazares told "Today." ''I thank him for that. He's a true hero."

Landsberry taught math at Sparks Middle School, and also served in the Nevada National Guard. The teacher received his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2001, and reportedly loved teaching children.

The Gazette Journal reported that Landsberry liked Batman so much that some of his students used it as his nickname.

“The kids loved him,” said Chanda Landsberry, Michael Landsberry’s sister-in-law.

On Landsberry’s class website, there was a picture of a bear, and the one class rule: “Thou Shall Not Annoy Mr. L….. A very good skill to learn is reading people and their moods. We will learn a lot from each other this year and what bothers us the most. I do not like sending people to E4 [a type of detention], I prefer to handle the situation myself. One of my goals is to earn your respect while you earn mine. I believe that with mutual respect that the classroom environment will run smoothly.” 

On the site, there were also two pictures of Landsberry: one at a mountain overlook, the other in front of a military vehicle, a gun across his body.

Prior to teaching, Landsberry served two tours in Afghanistan with the Marines, according to the Gazette Journal.

“He proudly served his country and was proudly defending the students at his school,” said Mayor Martini.

“To hear he was trying to protect those kids, that he stepped up and tried to stop the situation, doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Ms. Landsberry. “He was trained to help.”

Michael Landsberry is survived by his wife, Sharon Landsberry, and two stepdaughters, Ms. Landsberry’s children from a previous relationship.

A candlelight vigil to honor the victims will take place in front of Sparks Middle School at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The Patriot Guard and various veteran groups will participate in an honor guard, the Gazette Journal reported.

Classes and after-school activities were canceled at Sparks Middle School for the rest of the week. Counselors will be on-hand to work with staff members and the school’s 700 7th-  and 8th-grade students, Reuters reported.

"It's not supposed to happen here," said Chanda Landsberry. "We're just Sparks — little Sparks, Nev. It's unreal."

The violence in Sparks erupted nearly a year after a gunman opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 students and six adults. The Dec. 14 shooting sparked a nationwide gun-control debate.

In 2006, a 14-year-old boy opened fire in Pine Middle School in Reno. No one was killed, although two students were injured, according to the Gazette-Journal. The shooter had researched the 1999 Columbine High School shooting rampage a week before he opened fire on his classmates, the paper reported.

The Pine Middle School shooter was tried as a juvenile and was sentenced to house arrest.

Sparks is located in the western part of the state near the California border, just east of Reno.

The deep civic divide over guns was the focus of a recent civil dialogue hosted by The Christian Science Monitor in partnership with the Public Conversations Project and the Mantle Project.

Police secure the scene near Sparks Middle School after a shooting Monday. Two people were killed and two wounded, authorities reported. (Kevin Clifford/ AP Photo)

Nevada middle school shooting: teacher killed trying to protect students (+video)

By Contributor / 10.21.13

A teacher was killed and two students were critically wounded when a student opened fire at a Nevada middle school Monday morning before the shooter fatally turned the gun on himself, police said. Law enforcement officials secured the area around Sparks Middle School where the shooting took place without firing any shots. 

The two injured in the shooting were taken to Renown Regional Medical Center in nearby Reno, Nev. One of the individuals is already out of surgery, and the other is doing well, according to media reports

The teacher – eighth-grade math teacher Michael Landsberry, according to media reports – was shot and killed while trying to protect students. 

Students and staff at Sparks Middle School and nearby Risley Elementary School – which are both in Sparks, Nev. – were evacuated to Sparks High School. Both the middle and elementary schools will be closed Monday, said Charles Rahn, Washoe County School District spokesman.

“We came flying down here to get our kids,” Mike Fiorica, whose nephew attends the middle school, told the Associated Press. “It’s really chaotic. You can imagine how parents are feeling. You don’t know if your kid’s OK.”

Reno Deputy Police Chief Tom Robinson said 150 to 200 personnel secured the school and the surrounding area after the shooting was reported at 7:15 a.m. Pacific time, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Kyle Nucum, a student at Sparks Middle School, thought the shooting was a firecracker when he first heard a loud popping noise.

“Then the student fired a shot at the teacher, and the teacher fell and everybody ran away, and we ran across the field to get somewhere safe," Kyle said during an interview published on the Gazette-Journal website. "While we were running, we heard about four or five more shots,” Kyle said. He escaped the chaos inside a nearby home.

Michelle Hernandez, another student at the middle school, said she saw the shooter on Monday morning, the Gazette-Journal reported. “I heard him saying, ‘Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?’ ” she said.

The Gazette-Journal also spoke with Seth Hinchberger, an eighth-grader at Sparks Middle School, who said the shooter “pulled out a weapon and just shot it. And scared all of us, and we just started running.”

The students then ran into a hall, Seth said. “We piled up and put the girls in the back and the guys in the front ... for the safety of the girls,” he said. “He came over to us and started aiming at all of us.... Then he saw a teacher in the window and shot the window trying to get him. Shot the window twice.”

Mr. Robinson told parents they can now rest assured. “The schools are safe. The rest of the city is safe,” he said.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) extended his thoughts and prayers to those affected. “I was deeply saddened to learn of the horrific shooting at Sparks Middle School this morning. My administration is receiving regular updates and the Nevada Highway Patrol is assisting at the scene," he said in a statement.

Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada also issued a letter of comfort to those affected.

“My condolences go out to the victims’ families and my thoughts are with the teachers, administrators, parents and students at Sparks Middle School who have experienced a traumatic morning. No words of condolence could possibly ease the pain, but I hope it is some small comfort that Nevada mourns with them. I stand by to be of any assistance if there is anything that can be done and I will continue to monitor the situation,” the statement read.

The violence in Sparks erupted nearly a year after a gunman opened fire on students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 students and six adults. The Dec. 14 shooting sparked a nationwide gun-control debate.

In 2006, a 14-year-old boy opened fire in Pine Middle School in Reno. No one was killed, although two students were injured, according to the Gazette-Journal. The shooter had researched the 1999 Columbine High School shooting rampage a week before he opened fire on his classmates, the paper reported.

The Pine Middle School shooter was tried as a juvenile and was sentenced to house arrest.

Sparks is located in the western part of the state near the California border, just east of Reno.

The deep civic divide over guns was the focus of a recent civil dialogue hosted by The Christian Science Monitor in partnership with the Public Conversations Project and the Mantle Project.

Stephen Rakes smiles after greeting an acquaintance outside the liquor store he once owned in the South Boston neighborhood on June 6, 2013. Authorities say Rakes, who was on the witness list for the racketeering trial of reputed mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, was poisoned. (Michael Dwyer/ AP Photo/ File )

Whitey Bulger trial: Cyanide is ruled in death of would-be prosecution witness (+video)

By Contributor / 10.21.13

The death of a potential witness against James “Whitey” Bulger trial who had hoped to testify in the mobster's trial this summer was caused by cyanide poisoning, the Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s Office has concluded in an official autopsy report. 

Prosecutors allege that William Camuti, a longtime friend and associate of Mr. Bulger's, slipped cyanide into a cup of iced coffee he gave to Stephen “Stippo” Rakes when the two met up at a McDonald’s parking lot in July.

Mr. Camuti, who allegedly owed Mr. Rakes money and lured him to the meeting where he gave Rakes the poison beverage, then drove his body around for several hours before finally depositing him in a wooded area in a Boston suburb, prosecutors say. 

Camuti, who according to law enforcement officials previously had admitted to the cyanide poisoning, had previously been charged with attempted murder, misleading police, and unlawful disposition of human remains, connected to his alleged role in Rakes’s death.  

MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, said prosecutors now intend to file additional charges against Camuti based on the official report. 

In September, The Boston Globe reported that Camuti admitted his guilt in Rakes's murder after he attempted to commit suicide. 

The prosecution has a detailed case against Camuti that includes GPS records that place his car in the woods where Rakes’s body was found. Prosecutors also say they found evidence of Camuti inquiring about the purchase of potassium cyanide in his e-mail account. 

Potassium cyanide is relatively easy to obtain and can be purchased online. 

A judge ordered Camuti held without bail.

Camuti, the former owner of the Loan Depot, a Boston mortgage lender, was convicted in 1993 of 11 counts of mail fraud, according to the Globe. 

Authorities said Rakes’s death was not related to the Bulger case, though it was the kind of occurrence that typified Bulger’s reign over South Boston’s organized crime rings in the 1970s and 1980s.

According to reports, Rakes openly despised Bulger, and blamed him for seizing control of his South Boston liquor store to use as a headquarters for Boston’s Irish mob in 1984.  

“The day I see him [Bulger] in a box, not breathing, will be better,” Rakes told the Associated Press in April. 

Rakes said Bulger forced him to sell his store at gunpoint in front of Rakes’s two daughters for a fraction of what the store was worth. 

A former Bulger associate, Kevin Weeks, disputed Rakes’s account at Bulger's trial. According to Mr. Weeks, Rakes was trying to shake down the gangsters, a move that provoked Bulger, a notoriously short-tempered mobster, to pull his gun, NBC reported

Rakes was set to testify against Bulger to rebut Weeks’s version of events, but was removed from the witness list at the last minute for unknown reasons. 

Several days after he was supposed to testify, Rakes met up with Camuti in Waltham, Mass., a Boston suburb, and was killed.

The next day, a jogger found Rakes’s body in a wooded area of Lincoln, a nearby suburb, about 30 minutes away from the city. 

According to the AP, Bulger – who was convicted of crimes ranging from murder to extortion to money laundering – will effectively get a life in prison sentence when he is sentenced in November in Massachusetts. He plans to appeal the decision.

Bulger also faces murder charges in Florida and Oklahoma, both death penalty states.  

This undated combination photo shows Charles Walker (l.) and Joseph Jenkins. (Florida Department of Corrections/AP)

Florida hunts for convicted killers who used forged papers to escape prison (+video)

By Contributor / 10.17.13

Law enforcement officials in Florida are pressing a manhunt for two convicted murderers whom officials learned just this week had been a accidentally released from a Florida state prison within the last three weeks. 

Charles Walker and Joseph Jenkins, both 34, walked out of the Franklin Correctional Institution using counterfeit court documents that were signed with a forged signature and processed through the Orange County clerk’s office, according to news reports. 

"These two individuals are out. They shouldn't be, and we want to get them back in custody," Orange County Sheriff's Office spokesman Angelo Nieves said, the Associated Press reported. "This shouldn't have happened, but it did, and our concern is to get these individuals into custody."

The sheriff’s office learned of the two inadvertent releases on Tuesday and immediately notified the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the AP said. 

Mr. Walker escaped on Oct. 8, and Mr. Jenkins on Sept. 27. 

Law enforcement officials believe at least one of the men is currently in Orange County, where both were convicted in unrelated cases. Orange County is approximately five hours away from the Franklin Correctional Facility, located in the panhandle city of Carrabelle.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which processed the falsified documents, is conducting a “vigorous and thorough review” of other modified court orders to make sure there aren’t any other outlying mistakes, Mr. Nieves told CNN. 

Florida prison officials have expressed their befuddlement as to how this Hollywood-esque escape came about.

All the paperwork looked normal, said Misty Cash, Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman. "Everything came the way it normally comes," she told the Orlando Sentinel. “Our department followed every protocol and did everything we are supposed to do.” 

The orders to release the pair were processed by the Orange County Clerk’s office, and then sent to the Department of Corrections. 

Leesa Bainbridge, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Clerk of Courts, said the office moves thousands of pages of court documents a day and currently has no way of authenticating those that pass through to other agencies, the AP reported.

"We're kind of like the post office," Ms. Bainbridge said. "It comes in and we move it along."

Orders to modify Walker’s and Jenkin’s sentences both contained the same forged signature of Judge Belvin Perry. 

The two escapees have extensive criminal backgrounds. 

Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in the April 1999 shooting of 23-year-old Cedric Slater. Walker claims he intended only to scare Mr. Slater, but accidentally shot him. 

Jenkins was serving a 15-year sentence for the first-degree murder of Roscoe Pugh. According to court documents, Jenkins and Angelo Pearson attempted to invade Mr. Pugh’s home, and killed Pugh in the process. Mr. Pearson is serving a life sentence at the Wakulla Correctional Institution annex in Crawfordville. 

"They committed violent crimes,” Nieves told CNN. “The best thing for them to do is to turn themselves in.” 

There are currently 18 escaped prisoners in Florida, according to the Department of Corrections website.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stands behind a street sign marking the agency's entrance in Atlanta. The CDC has recalled some of its furloughed staff to deal with a salmonella outbreak. (David Goldman/AP)

Feds recall furloughed workers to deal with salmonella outbreak (+video)

By Contributor / 10.10.13

The United States Department of Agriculture is threatening to close three California poultry factories if they do not meet health and safety standards by Thursday, according to a letter from the USDA.

The Fresno, Calif.-based Foster Farms processing plants were tied to a series of 278 salmonella infections across 17 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The company was cited 12 times between Jan. 1 and Sept. 27, 2013, for having fecal material on poultry carcasses, according to a CDC report. Despite the government shutdown, which furloughed 68 percent of CDC workers, 30 of the centers' employees were called back to work on Wednesday to help with the investigation.

On the company website, Foster Farms wrote that it does not plan to issue a recall on its poultry products. The spread of salmonella, the company writes, can be eliminated by properly handling chicken. 

Unlike E.coli, salmonella outbreaks do not automatically trigger a recall because cooking poultry to 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill salmonella.  

Groups such as Consumer Reports have been pushing the Agricultural Department to change the way salmonella outbreaks are handled so that the government can force recalls. The only recourse currently available to the government is to remove meat inspectors from a plant that does not meet production standards. But while this prevents more meat from being processed in a contaminated factory, it still leaves possibly infected products on the shelves.

“We think the USDA should require this [Foster Farms] meat to be recalled,” said Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest to the Los Angeles Times.

The outbreak was first identified in March 2013, triggering a government investigation. This particular outbreak has proven resistant to several different types of antibiotics in some cases, according to the CDC.

Strains of salmonella that are resistant to antibiotics have been cropping up with greater frequency in the past few years, a phenomena that some scientists say is caused by poultry farmers using antibiotics in meat farming.

“It’s not an accident that this particular strain is resistant,” notes Marc Siegel, a professor at New York University’s Langone Medical Center in New York City. “I suspect it’s resistant because of the overuse of antibiotics among farm animals.”

Others say farmers are not likely overusing antibiotics because the drugs are expensive. The greater problem is that it is tough for farmers to stop salmonella from spreading.

“If the poultry industry knew how to completely eliminate salmonella, it would do it,” John Glisson, director of research for the US Poultry & Egg Association, told The New York Times.

For information about how to properly handle chicken, see the USDA’s website.

Boston school buses sat idle behind a chain link fence at Veolia Transportation, the city's school bus contractor, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. About 600 school bus drivers went on strike affecting most of the school district's 33,000 students. (Stephan Savoia/ AP Photo )

Boston school bus drivers end wildcat strike, but city officials wary (+video)

By Contributor / 10.09.13

Boston school buses were rolling again Wednesday morning – a day after a wildcat strike by drivers – but interruptions in school transportation remain a possibility as negotiations between the drivers' union and the city-contracted bus company continue, city officials warned

"We're still concerned about a similar action at any time, and we're keeping our contingency plans in place," said a Boston Public Schools spokesman, the Associated Press reported. 

Union leaders met Wednesday with officials from the Veolia bus company to discuss their grievances. The meeting was held on condition that drivers complete their normal rounds Wednesday morning and that union members who participated in Tuesday’s strike not be punished for their actions.

Topping a 16-point list of union demands presented to Veolia was a halt to the bus company's use of two new electronic tracking systems: a GPS device that allows parents to monitor bus location through an app on their smartphones, and Versatrans, a software program that helps route buses and is used by the company to determine evaluations and pay. 

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called Wednesday’s meeting “very good news," but cautioned parents to have backup transportation plans, The Boston Globe reported. This was a change in tone from Tuesday, when Mayor Menino expressed his outrage at the strike and said he would use all available legal means to resume service and hold the strikers accountable.

Brian Ballou, the Boston schools spokesman, said officials heard rumblings about the strike Monday, and had placed monitors at bus yards Tuesday morning, the Globe reported. School officials heard about the strike shortly after 5 a.m. on Tuesday, and alerted parents shortly thereafter.

The school department said student attendance on Tuesday fell to 82 percent, about 10 percent lower than usual. The city enlisted the help of police officers to shuttle students to school, and children over the age of 11 were offered free rides on public transportation. 

Bus company representatives agreed Tuesday evening to meet with the drivers only after Federal District Court Judge George O’Toole refused to issue an injunction ordering them back to work. 

Union steward Jean Claude Toussaint said drivers staged the “work stoppage” to bring attention to a list of grievances. However, Patrick Bryan, an attorney for the United Steelworkers Local 8751, which represents the bus drivers’ interests, said union leadership did not authorize a strike. Rather, Mr. Bryan said, Tuesday’s action was organized by disparate union members. 

Veolia's attorneys were reluctant to accept that the union was unaware that hundreds of its members were going on strike. 

"This was beyond the actions of a few rogue members," Veolia attorney Paul Hodnett told the AP. 

Boston Public Schools awarded Veolia a five-year contract in March 2013 after a contract with First Student transportation company ended. In December 2011, First Student was fined $800,000 after 37 percent of its buses arrived as much as an hour late to school in the preceding months, the Globe reported. The school district did not say directly that bus tardiness was the reason it did not renew the contract with First Student. 

Tuesday's school bus strike was the first in Boston in more than 20 years, the Globe reported. 

The Range Rover involved in the bikers' attack is being moved from the police precinct for further police investigation Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 in New York. Last weekend, dozens of bikers stopped the Range Rover SUV on a highway, attacked the vehicle, then chased the driver and pulled him from the car after he plowed over a motorcyclist while trying to escape, police said. (David Karp/ AP Photo)

NYPD detective faces charges after video shows he pounded on SUV (+video)

By Contributor / 10.08.13

An off-duty undercover New York Police Department detective has turned himself in to face charges after video showed him pounding on the SUV at the center of a bloody road rage incident between the SUV driver and a band of motorcyclists on New York City’s Westside Highway.

The detective initially told his superiors he was not involved in the Sept. 29 attack on the SUV driver, who was pulled from his car and stomped on in front of his terrified wife and child, and said he did not intervene for fear of blowing his cover.

But the detective, identified by The New York Times as Wojciech Braszczok, was seen in a video pounding on the SUV’s rear window and kicking its side before leaving the scene on his motorcycle, according to multiple reports.

The New York Daily News, citing a police source, said the detective surrendered with his lawyer on Tuesday and was taken to Manhattan Central Booking shortly after the Manhattan district attorney approved his arrest.

According to the Times, Mr. Braszczok faces charges of riot and criminal mischief and will be suspended after his arrest.

On Monday, Braszczok’s lawyer, Philip Karasyk, said his client had observed, but did not directly participate in, the altercation.

The detective did not have a badge, or gun, and was aware of cases in which officers had been suspended or dismissed for blowing their cover, "he had no other option, so he drove away," Mr. Karasyk, who works with the Detectives’ Endowment Association, told the AP. 

While undercover status can excuse officers from directly intervening when they observe a crime, or immediately reporting the crime to the police, being undercover doesn't offer officers blanket immunity, says Eugene O'Donnell, a former NYPD officer and current lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. 

"Violence is usually the bright line," Mr. O'Donnell says. "Watching somebody get hurt is one thing, hurting someone would be another thing," though every case is nuanced, he adds. 

The NYPD internal affairs investigators had been looking into the undercover detective's conduct because he did not report the incident until three days after the altercation. 

However, the police officer's delay in coming forward wasn’t unusual, says O'Donnell. An undercover officer can't just traipse into the local precinct office and report a crime, O'Donnell explains. This could blow the officer's cover entirely, or put the secrecy of a larger investigation at risk.  

There isn't a hard and fast rule on the time frame, says O'Donnell, but the officer is obliged to take appropriate steps to report his observations when it becomes possible. 

The road rage incident occurred when a band of motorcyclists swarmed Alexian Lien’s black Range Rover in Washington Heights, after Mr. Lien bumped into one of the motorcyclists, later identified as Christopher Cruz.

Riders then dismounted their bikes, approached the SUV, and began hitting the vehicle. Lien then took off, and collided with motorcyclist Edwin “Jay” Mieses Jr.

Lien’s wife, who was in the car with her husband and their 2-year-old daughter, said her husband took off in fear. 

The group of bikers then swarmed Lien's car, causing him to stop the vehicle, at which point bikers began hitting Lien's SUV and breaking the car's windows before prying Lien from inside and beating him up.   

Mr. Mieses is in the hospital with two broken legs and a spinal injury. Lien received stitches. 

Before Braszczok turned himself in, four motorcyclists have been charged in the incident. Lien has not been charged with hitting Mieses. 

The YouTube video that recorded part of the incident has been replayed more than 7 million times and has helped police to identify suspects in the case.

A clean-shaven James Holmes appears in court in Centennial, Colo., in this Sept. 30 court sketch. Mr. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 in a suburban Denver movie theater in on July 20, 2012. (Bill Robles/ Reuters)

Did James Holmes drop online hint about Aurora massacre? (+video)

By Contributor / 10.07.13

James Holmes, accused shooter in last summer’s Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, will return to court on Monday, as attorneys from both sides of the case argue what evidence jurors should be permitted to hear in the trial against Mr. Holmes.

The defense claims that nearly all of the prosecution’s key evidence – from the defendant’s iPhone to explosives seized in his apartment – is not permissible in the trial because it was obtained under illegal entry.

According to one motion to dismiss evidence, Holmes’s lawyers argue that proper legal procedure was not followed in searching Holmes’s apartment, or in the questioning of the defendant.

The prosecution counters that they needed to question Holmes about a bomb he was suspected of building in his apartment before the shooting. Though Holmes had asked for a lawyer after he was read his rights, police say that they needed to learn how to defuse the explosives in Holmes’s apartment.

Evidence collected from several online dating websites will also be discussed during motion hearings during the next several weeks.

Though Holmes left a very light online footprint, the defendant allegedly had accounts with the sites and AdultFriendFinder.

On his profiles, Holmes had written the question: “Will you visit me in prison?” Prosecutors hope to undermine the defense’s insanity plea with evidence from these sites, claiming that Holmes was aware of his actions. 

The judge has already rejected one defense attempt to suppress the website evidence, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this month, prosecutors in Colorado were granted the right to see Holmes's mental health records, but not other medical records. None of the documents has been made public. 

News organizations have urged the judge to reject a request by Holmes's lawyer to limit public access to documents in the case, according to the Associated Press, which is one of petitioning organizations. The AP reports that the defense asked the judge to keep secret all transcripts from proceedings in open court, including all of the events and documents in the case. 

Holmes is charged with  killing 12 people and injuring 70 others during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Reports suggested that he was wearing a gas mask, set off a tear gas bomb, and opened fire on the audience.

The defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. 

On April 1, prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty in Holmes’s trial. Colorado is one of 32 states with the death penalty.

The shooting, which took place on July 20, 2012, pushed Colorado legislators toward adopting new gun control measures. In a backlash, Colorado voters last month ousted two Democratic state senators who aggressively supported gun control. On Friday, recall organizers also won certification to launch a bid to oust state Sen. Evie Hudak (D) over gun control. If this bid succeeds, Republicans regain control of the state Senate. 

Holmes’s trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 14, 2014.

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